Just SIX plots make up every Film, Book and TV show ever made
Saturday, 09 July 2016

From Harry Potter and Romeo and Juliet to the stories of Oedipus and Icarus, almost every tale told conforms to one of just six plots, researchers have claimed.

A major new analysis of over 1,700 stories identified the core plots 'which form the building blocks of complex narratives'.

Researchers used complex data-mining to locate words linked to positive or negative emotion in each story to reveal the set of arcs.

 An emotional arc is similar to a plot building block that tells a story by generating an emotional response from the reader, reports MIT Review.


For example, 'man falls into hole, man gets out of hole' or one of the most well-know, 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl'.

And prior to Computational Story lab at the University of Vermont's study most believed there was anywhere from three to more than thirty different arcs.

To conduct the study, researchers used sentiment analysis, which is the idea that words have both positive and emotional impacts, to map the emotional arcs.

Words can be measured of the emotional valence of text and how it changes from moment to moment.

The team then analyzed the emotional polarity of 'word windows' and slid these windows through the text to create a picture of how the emotional valence changes.

This task was performed on fictional works taken from the Project Gutenberg website that had been downloaded more than 150 times each.

And finally, the data-mining technique led the team to the six main emotional arcs: Fall-rise-fall, like Oedipus Rex; Rise and then a fall, such as stories from Hans Andersen; Fall and then a rise, like The Magic of Oz; Steady fall, like in Romeo and Juliet; Steady rise, like in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice's Adventures Underground; Rise-fall-rise, like that of Cinderella.

'We strengthen our findings by separately applying optimization, linear decomposition, supervised learning, and unsupervised learning,' reads the study published in the journal arXiv.

From Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet to the stories of Oedipus and Icarus, almost every story conforms to one of just six plots, researchers have claimed. The six in order: Rise, Fall-rise, Rise-fall-rise, Fall, Rise-fall-rise, Fall-rise-fall

'For each of these six core emotional arcs, we examine the closest characteristic stories in publication today and find that particular emotional arcs enjoy greater success, as measured by downloads.'

The team also dove into the seven book series of Harry Potter, as it may seem these stories would have multiple plots.

But, the entire series can be classified as ‘Rag to riches’ and ‘Kill the monster’ story.

Researchers scanned over 1,700 stories into a computer and used data-mining to find words that convey positive or negative emotion in order to reveal the most commonly used plots. Shown in the graph is one of the 6 plots, 'Steady fall' and  results when the team analyzed Romeo and Juliet

There are also many sub plots and connections between them that complicate the emotional arc of each individual book.

And feeding the story into the computer, it clearly revealed all of the low parts in the stories that many fans know too well.

Following the discovery of the set of six arcs, the team dug deeper into the link between emotional arc and the number of story downloads in order to find which types of arcs are most popular.

The most popular are those that follow Icarus (rise-fall) and Oedipus (fall-rise-fall) arcs and stories that follow more complex arcs, which use the basic building blocks in sequence.

Researchers also say that the most popular arcs are those that involved two sequential man-in-hole arcs and a Cinderella arc followed by a tragedy.

There are two stories that really support the ‘Rags to riches plot mode, which are Alice’s Under Ground’ and ‘Dreams’.

And among the most categorical tragedies, the plot that is a steady fall, are ‘Man in a hole’, Romeo and Juliet and The House of the Vampire.

The team also found that the ‘Cinderella", ‘Oedipus", two sequential Man in a hole" arcs and ‘Cinderella" with a tragic ending are the most successful emotional arcs.  


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